There is No Rose: Stopford and Sting

Rose window at Notre Dame, Paris

Rose window at Notre Dame, Paris

There’s something about choral music that draws me like a magnet. I think we’re probably hardwired to love the sound of the human voice singing, developing a taste for it while we’re still in utero.

I doubt very much that while I was surrounded by amniotic fluid my mom exposed me to a lot of music from the middle ages, so its appeal for me must have some other source.  Whatever the explanation, I’m hooked.

The piece I’ve got for you today takes its text from a 15th century carol called “There is No Rose.” The music is by Philip Stopford, whom you met here.

I don’t think you have to feel a special fondness for sacred music or buy into all the doctrinal particulars to appreciate this. I recommend sitting alone someplace with your eyes closed, and letting it wash over you.* I’d be interested to hear about your experience.†



Because I’m interested in languages, I was glad to find the original words. I’ll also include below the contemporary text, with helpful translation for Latin bits.

Ther is no rose of swych vertu
As is the rose that bare Jhesu.

Be that rose we may weel see
That he is God in personys thre,
Pari forma.

For in this rose conteynyd was
Heuen and erthe in lytyl space,
Res miranda.

The aungelys sungyn the shepherdes to:
‘Gloria in excelsis Deo’.

Leue we all this wordly merthe,
And folwe we this joyful berthe;

(text found at Saturday Chorale)

Text that makes a little more sense to modern English speakers:

There is no rose of such virtue,
as is the rose that bare Jesu.

For in this rose contained
was heaven and earth in little space.
(Wondrous thing)

For by that rose we may well see
that he is God in persons three.
(One in form)

The angels sungen the shepherds to:
Gloria in excelsis Deo.
(Glory to God in the highest)
(Let us rejoice)

Leave all this worldly mirth
and follow we this joyful birth.
(Let us cross over)

There is no rose of such virtue,
as is the rose that bare Jesu.


Michelangelo's Pietá, roughly contemporary to the text

Michelangelo’s Pietá, roughly contemporary to the text

If these voices aren’t quite your thing, here’s another version to try: Sting (behind a big beard) playing a lute and working a middle eastern vibe in Durham, 2009.

*The original recording that was here for a few years was removed in November 2018. The version that replaced it is lovely, but I do miss the first one.

†I hope these harmonies have something to add to your worship, whenever, wherever or however it happens.

[Images: Wikipedia (pietá by Juan M. Romero)]

6 thoughts on “There is No Rose: Stopford and Sting

  1. What a beautiful Alleluia gift you have shared with me. I thank you.

    As Lutheran Missouri Synod Lutherans we begin each day in the Word and prayer as a family. It is our moment to center ourselves, devote ourselves and fill ourselves in His Word to go forth into the world. I will share with our sons.

    We so appreciate your wonderful efforts

    Love, Holly (Library)

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